India has pulled out of a multilateral tri-services military exercise being hosted by Russia next month because of the participation of a Chinese contingent.
India was one of the countries scheduled to participate in Kavkaz 2020 from September 15 to September 27.
Members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, central Asian nations, Turkey and Iran will be sending contingents to Russia for the exercise.
On Friday, India cited the Covid-19 pandemic as the reason to turn down Russia’s invitation, but sources in the defence establishment said India did not want to participate in a friendly exercise alongside Chinese troops at a time when the two countries are involved in a tense military standoff in Ladakh.
In a statement, the Ministry of Defence said: “Russia and India are close and privileged strategic partners. At Russia’s invitation, India has been participating in many international events. However, in view of Pandemic and consequent difficulties in exercise, including arrangements of logistics, India has decided not to send a contingent this year to Kavkaz-2020. The same has been informed to the Russian side.”
India had planned to send a contingent comprising 180 infantry troops, 40 IAF personnel and two Navy officers as observers.
India and China have been involved in several rounds of military and diplomatic talks since June to resolve the border crisis in Ladakh, but the Chinese have been reluctant to complete full disengagement, especially in Pangong Tso where their troops have come in 8 km west of the point which India says marks the Line of Actual Control.